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Once In A Lifetime

I kid you not. But before I get into expounding the title of this blog post, I’d like to clear up a common myth/misconception. So sorry to burst any bubbles that you’ve had since childhood. There is no such thing as a seagull. Yes. A seagull is not a bird. Even though seagulls don’t exist, somehow you can still find a flock.

The birds that fall under this unfortunate designation are from the family of Gulls. Yeah, they’re gulls, they live by the sea, so they should be called seagulls, right. No. They’re gulls. Moreover, there is a considerable number of species within the family, and what’s more is that they are known to hybridize. Go figure.

Anyway, the most common and widespread species within T&T is the Laughing Gull. So called for its distinctive vocalization, which you really must experience in person. For most of the year they’re drab looking, grey birds, but during their breeding period (happening now), surging hormones transform them into red-mouthed, black-hooded beasts. Constantly vying for a chance to send their genes to a future generation of hilarious birds, they call almost non-stop.

laughing gull










In and amongst the Laughing Gulls, you would easily be able to pick out the much larger Lesser Black-backed Gull. Standing head and shoulders above everyone else, it’s still smaller than the largest species of gull in the world, the Great Black-backed Gull (see the second image from this blog post).

lesser black backed gull-2










While both of these species can be found on nearly every visit to Trinidad’s western mudflats, last year December a mystery gull popped up. It didn’t match any of the known gulls that were previously recorded in Trinidad. Nor Tobago. Nor the rest of the Caribbean. In fact, it has never been recorded in the entire western hemisphere.

audouins gull






This medium-sized bird is an Audouin’s Gull . This is a young bird experiencing its first winter, first migration – and probably got lost along the way. After its first appearance in December, it vanished – it was only visible for one day. Since then, it has been making sporadic appearances – despite consistent searching by dedicated local birdwatchers. The second sighting was more than a month later. Then it reappeared at the end of March for a couple days.

audouin's gull-2






Does it continuously roam? Would it eventually attempt to return to its birthing ground in the Mediterranean? So many questions, and all are most welcome. This is how we grow – we experience new things and we learn.

2 thoughts on “Once In A Lifetime

  1. Faraaz,
    How can an andouin end up all in little Trinidad. Could he have ridden a north easterly trade and ended up here? This is intriguing…. how long would that have taken, how could he have had the strength to go all the way.
    A million questions, but for now I should just appreciate his appearance here

    1. Asif – All very relevant questions. There are a number of possible causes – bad weather or a storm of some sort, following a ship, inexperience, could be also a combination of factors as well. This is a young bird, not even a year old yet. So this was its first journey south, and well, it ended up here. We’ll see if it flies off in a few weeks’ time.

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